The National Famine Way™ is a 165km way marked walking and cycling trail commemorating a heart-breaking walk of forced emigration which took place in 1847 at the height of the Irish famine. It begins at the memorial glass wall at National Famine Museum | Strokestown Park in Roscommon and continues through six counties to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands. The route is marked by more than 30 pairs of bronze children’s shoes. The trail is graded as “easy”, meaning the surfaces are consistent and generally even suiting both walkers and cyclists. The average gradients are low as it follows a level canal towpath for much of the route and it gains just 40m between the start and end points – this link gives an overall view of the gradients. The National Famine Way™ is a dog friendly route.
The National Famine Way Audio App is free and an excellent resource. It’s easy to use and with its rich content is the perfect companion along Ireland’s most poignant historical trail. As you walk in the Footsteps of Strokestown’s 1490 Famine Emigrants it geolocates each of the 32 pairs of Bronze Shoes so you can listen to key local and national history relevant to each of these areas. It also highlights sites of importance nearby that you may want to see or visit. The App also features a digital story book, ‘Daniel’s Story’, written by renowned author Marita Conlon Mc Kenna with a vignette for each pair of shoes. It reimagines the journey of 12 year old Daniel Tighe as he walked the trail in Black ’47. Deeper historic information is given through videos of world distinguished famine academics speaking on various locations along the trail. Walkers can choose whether to do the National Famine Way™ in sections or as a point-to-point walk. The entire trail will take about 6 days for the average walker to complete and enjoy all that the trail has to offer.
The route is clearly marked with the familiar yellow “walking man” long distance trail markers on black posts making it an ideal self-guided route. Attractive villages and towns dot the trail meaning it is well supplied with services and transport links along its length. This link shows the main services. The trail begins at the glass wall outside Strokestown Park House where the first pair of bronze shoes can be seen. The National Famine Way follows the Old Dublin Road to the canal at Clondara and only includes a short stretch of the main N5 road.
Directions from Strokestown Park House Begin your walk by following the trail signage and exiting through the main gates. 1. Turn right at the roundabout and follow the R368 road up through the town. 2. Turn right at the top of the town onto the L1405 road. Pass the Cemetery and stay on the L1405 3. Take the first turn right onto the L6121 (Old Dublin Road) and follow this road until 4. You emerge onto the main N5 and turn left to walk over the bridge 5. Keep following the path along the N5 6. Take the first turn left onto the L6144 road. Follow this road until you emerge at Tarmonbarry 7. Turn left and cross the bridge over the River Shannon using the path on the N5 8. Turn right onto the L1171 9. Follow the L1171 all the way to Clondara and the Royal Canal
Leave No Trace
The trail passes through important rural areas rich in wildlife and plant life. All users of the National Famine Way™ are asked to adhere to the principals of Leave No Trace based on an abiding respect for nature, culture and people. These are:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Be Considerate of Others
- Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Leave What You Find
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Minimise the Effects of Fire
CYCLISTS PLEASE NOTE - Currently a 5km section of the trail is not suitable for cycling. It is in Dublin at Castleknock/Clonsilla (see map). At Porterstown Bridge, do not follow trail signage but turn left onto Diswellstown Road and follow the pink diversion shown. Re-join the trail at the 12th lock in Castleknock by crossing the bridge to the south bank of the Royal Canal.
Up to date information on significant temporary diversions or ongoing works on the route is available from the Waterways Ireland website.
Fergal Hingerty looks back on completing the National Famine Way
Fergal Hingerty is one of the few people who has completed the National Famine Way in both directions. From reading Fergal's article we feel his sense of accomplishment. Fergal concludes his article by encouraging others to complete their own journey, saying: "So should you decide to take on the National Famine Way, remember that no matter how hard you find it, you will find it easier than the 1,490 victims of the famine did… and as Confucious said, 'Each journey starts with just a simple step.'"
Click here to read the full article in the Westmeath Examiner.
Joe Mellett looks back on completing the National Famine Way with Cathal Kelly
Joe Mellett completed the National Famine Way with Cathal some months ago and said it was, "a very enjoyable experience" and that he would be, "encouraging others to participate."
Joe commented: "All along the walk when tired, I only had to imagine what the unfortunate evicted tenants from STROKESTOWN had to endure and this spurred me on. I look on the walk as a type of penitence, good for the body and soul. It certainly has given me a better understanding of life and how lucky we are to live in an era of much better times than the 1840s. I feel that I am all the better for the experience."
In case of emergency, the telephone numbers to contact are 999 or 112, Waterways Ireland Tel: +353 (0)1 868 0148